10 Essential Dishes You Have to Try in New Zealand

Pavlova | © William Brawley/Flickr
Thalita Alves

When in New Zealand, eat as the Kiwis do. Travellers should definitely try to get their hands on some of the country’s quintessential dishes – from seafood to dessert and everything in between. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few local staples to add to your taste list.

A New Zealand pie

New Zealanders take their pies very seriously. There’s even an annual competition to find the very best in the country. The more traditional flavours include mince, steak and cheese, bacon and egg, and potato top. That being said, all gourmet pies from cafés and bakeries are worth trying – you might even find vegetarian and vegan options in some places.

Mince Pies with Kumara Chips

The original flat white

Kiwi ingenuity brought the flat white to the coffee guzzling world. Make sure to visit your nearby café to get a taste of the real thing – it’ll be much better than the Starbucks version. Wellington punches well above its weight when it comes to coffee, and Auckland will give you your fill of great cafés too. But really, any local coffee shop will have trained their baristas to froth and brew everything to perfection.

Flat White Coffee

Fish and chips

If you’re around for the summer, head to the local chippery to buy some fish and chips. Then sit by the beach, and revel in a seafood-filled picnic. Common fish options include snapper, terakihi and kohi. You can usually order one scoop of normal potato chips or kumara (sweet potato) fries. Fish and chip shops will sell more than just those two must-try staples – you could also opt to buy some mussels, oysters, scallops, squid rings, and whitebait fritters.

Proper Fish and Chips Picnic


Ownership disputes aside, the pavlova has got to be New Zealand’s best renowned dish. It’s a prominent component of various Christmas feasts, dinner parties and summer barbecues. Pavlovas are meringue-type desserts that are topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit – usually kiwifruit, but sometimes berries or strawberries might be used instead.


Hokey Pokey ice cream

Probably New Zealand’s best contribution to the ice cream industry. Hokey Pokey is a creamy vanilla ice cream with honeycomb toffee pieces. It’s also one of the most popular flavours around – in fact, its primary manufacturer, Tip Top, has won the New Zealand Ice Cream’s Supreme Award for two years in a row because of this icy delicacy.


Cheese and wine

Wine and cheese tasting tours are very much part of the New Zealand travel experience. The best cheese manufacturers can be found in Kapiti, Whitestone, and Puhoi Valley. Local wineries offer a variety of sauvignon, pinot noir and merlot options for keen connoisseurs a novice tasters.

Gibbston Vallery Wine and Cheese, Otago, New Zealand

New Zealand lollies

By ‘lollies’, we mean sweets and candies. Popular confectionery items include Pineapple Lumps (pineapple candy with a chocolate coating), Chocolate Fish (which has marshmallow inside), jaffas (a hard, orange candy), jelly jet planes and gummy snakes. You can usually get these in supermarkets or at a local dairy (i.e. a corner store).

Pascall’s Pineapple Lumps

Slices and squares

You’ll find lots of different variations of these at local cafes and bakeries. Caramel slices, custard slices, rocky road slices and lolly cakes are some of the most common of these delectable Kiwi indulgences. They’re perfect for a mid-morning treat or as a quick dessert on the go – and they’re even better with a fresh cup of coffee.

Lolly Cake

New Zealand lamb

New Zealand is world famous for its beef and lamb industry. So it’s only fair that we include it as one of our must-taste dishes. Lamb is traditionally flavoured with rosemary, and is served with steamed vegetables on the side. Whether you like your meat roasted or grilled, you’ll find that most restaurants will have this quintessential item on their menus.

New Zealand Lamb Chops With Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

A hangi

The hangi has been around for more than 2000 years, and was a popular cooking method for Maori. Various foods like chicken, pork, mutton, and vegetables are roasted on a closed fire underground. These days, hangis are saved for special occasions – but tourists can get a taste of this traditional dish in selected heritage sites around the Bay of Plenty.


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